LIGHT IS A PART OF THE TRADITION // 04. 1994.
IRFAN DURMIC // DIRECTOR OF THE ELECTRIC COMPANY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

April 1994

Irfan Durmic
Director of the Electric Company
LIGHT IS A PART OF THE TRADITION

‘We have then celebrated the 100th anniversary since the electricity was installed to the city. It is something that neither London, or Tokyo, or Paris and many other world metropolis can be proud of. So, for us it was very hard to endure the lack of electricity during the war. Therefore we wanted to show that with those three megawatts, that we had in the city, to show how the city is living and that would continue to live. So we lighted up Ferhadija Street, Titova Street, Trg Oslobodjenja, and the area around the Eternal Flame.’

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APRIL 1994


• The Croatian Party of Rights, regarding the Croatian-Muslim conflict, and the establishment of the Federation: "We will crush the HDZ, which brought conflict between the Muslims and Croats."


• The Bosnian Serbs carry out an attack on Gorazde.
• Stephen Spielberg wins an Oscar for the film "Schindler's List".
• The leader of Montenegro's liberals, Slavko Perovic, challenges to a duel with pistols the Montenegrin Minister of the Interior in a protest over violence against two Muslims who were his guests.


• Only a limited number of citizens and only those with escorts can visit homes and relatives in the Sarajevo neighborhood of Grbavica held by Bosnian Serbs.


• On the occasion of 110 years of Elektrodistribucija BiH the street lights on Titova Street, Ferhadija and Trg Oslobodjenja (Liberation Square) are turned on.


• Sarajevo is heavily shelled.
• Statement of the Basic Court II: divorces are produced as if by assembly line. In most cases the sued party is the wife. If the spouses are separated for two years and if the address of one of the spouses is unknown, the plaintiff automatically receives a divorce.
• A telephone line with Croatia is established. Numbers can be dialed only from the Post Office.


• Because of Bosnian Serb Army attacks on Gorazde and Sarajevo, General Michael Rose requests air strikes, Akashi approves, and NATO carries them out. UNPROFOR telephones Ratko Mladic at 14:00 hours, sends a fax to him at 14:50, and then drops two bombs.


• Because of the air strikes, Boris Yeltsin grows angry at Clinton because Washington did not consult him.
• In Pale, the Bosnian Serbs decided to block all access roads to Sarajevo, including for the UN and international humanitarian organizations.
• The television network of the Bosnian Serbs, "Srna ", shows footage from Somalia with a bound and murdered U.S. soldier and adds the comment: "If this can be done in Somalia, think of what the Serbs can do!"


• Branko Mikulic passes away, one of Tito's closest associates in communist Yugoslavia.


• Bosnian Serb soldiers commit a massacre in Gorazde. The UN sends a message to the Bosnian Serbs that they are not their enemies. NATO strikes do not mean victory for their opponents; NATO is only helping them comply with UN rules. In Gorazde, 200 UN personnel are detained, as well as 58 observers who are kept prisoners.


• Akashi obtains a cease-fire for Gorazde.
• Passengers shot in a Sarajevo tram.


• Because of this new crisis Yasushi Akashi says: "We do not have the resources to cope with the situation, all this is beyond the capability of the UN. Everything depends on the Security Council and Boutros Ghali."
• Heavy artillery attacks on Gorazde.


• Sarajevans hold a meeting on the rescue of Gorazde.
• Michael Rose: "Without large troops it is impossible to protect the Gorazde UN 'safe area'."
• The head of the Catholic Church in BiH, Vinko Puljic, sends an appeal to the world: "If the bases of UN institutions are broken, from which starting point is human civilization possible?"
• The organization "Doctors without borders" seeks the resignation of Yasushi Akashi. Two of their colleagues are in Gorazde and provide help for the people there: "It is shameful how the international community has surrendered politically in Bosnia."


• Russian President, Boris Yeltsin urges Bosnian Serbs to withdraw and permit the entry of UN troops into Gorazde. Yasushi Akashi boycotts Karadzic until he releases the UN workers and lifts the siege of Gorazde. The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vitali Churkin, because of the crisis in Gorazde says: "The Serbs for days were deceiving me." He asks Russia to suspend talks with the Serbs. Turkey wants to lift an arms embargo on Bosnia to save the country.
• In Lukavica, the Bosnian Serbs seize anti-aircraft rifles from a UN checkpoint. 150 Bosnian Serbs confiscate the weapons of 30 UN French soldiers.
• Pale: Serbs have signed the UN agreement on a ceasefire and the deployment of UN troops.


• In Gorazde, the Bosnian Serbs do not slow down. In Sarajevo, the Serbs return the anti-aircraft rifles but they seize an APC form the UN checkpoint. Yeltsin insists that only the UN Security Council can order the strike - in the UN Security Council the Russians have a veto.
• A report from a Sarajevo pharmacy: 30 tons of medicines should be destroyed. The aid shipments were arriving with drugs as many as 10 years old. In the pharmacy for humanitarian aid there is no information about the drugs’ origins and it remains unclear why the UNHCR never checked their information when receiving them.


• The City government in Sarajevo makes the decision to ban alcohol, poker machines, gambling, video games, live music - everything that makes noise and disturbs the peace of citizens.


• 59 people killed in Gorazde.
• Russia is trying to bring military action to diplomacy.
• NATO is waiting ready with 200 aircraft if the Serbs continue with violations in the "safe areas".


• Yasushi Akashi, "The Serbs have complied with the terms of the NATO ultimatum. The situation does not justify air strikes. "
• UNPROFOR Commander Michael Rose yet again goes to sleep. He does not wait for the expiration of the ultimatum. The U.S. and NATO want to strike, but the UN prevents them.
• Former President of the United States, Richard Nixon dies.


• The Russian Duma recommends: "Negotiations, not war."


• NATO ultimatum: Bosnian Serbs must withdraw their weapons 20 km from Gorazde. 4500 troops and 200 NATO aircraft await commands.


• The Bosnian Serbs comply with the ultimatum.
• Sarajevo: The humanitarian association "Roma Brothers", with the help of donors, organizes the "Roma Ball."


• A performance on the Miljacka is held: on the river a raft with a flag is launched. Bottles are thrown with the message: "This is not a wall! Hello Europe, we are the world! "


• The Bosnian Serbs issue their edition of the daily "Oslobodjenje", entitled "Srpsko Oslobodjenje."


• Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the U.K.: "The Serbian attacks on the 'safe areas' is an insult to humanity."

Sarajevo by Night

SARAJEVO BY NIGHT means that life follows the line or the sun. Without civilization based on inventions of two Americans - Tesla, who was born in the neighborhood and who we are proud of, and Edison, who they are proud of - you have to learn to go to sleep early and to wake up early. So many evenings are spent in envy of those who have electricity. But Sarajevans have mastered the art of making kandilo, which is the light, usually hanging before an icon. To the Greeks have given the name - kandelos.
Recipe: Fill a glass jar, or a glass, half with water and a quarter with oil. Ten cut five to seven millimeters of a cork, and drag through it cotton string, or a carpet fringe, or any piece of burning material. In order for the wick to stay above the oil and burn, a tin strip of some two centimeters is used and placed above the jar. Through that strip runs the wick soaked in oil. Candles have burned long ago, even decorative ones. People who have saved petroleum lamps are very rare, and for them a liter of petroleum costs 30 DM. Batteries ran out at the beginning of the war. Still, they are being revived by cooking in salt water, five to ten minutes. They can come to life if connected to an automobile battery, if that one can be fed with electricity. All these tricks make batteries live five or six lives.
Of 1800 transformer stations in Sarajevo, more than half are out of use. To steal fuses is a regular thing. Three such fuses will cost you about 700 DM on the black market. Their real value is no more than 15 DM. Foreign currency is needed if you want to bring electricity from the station to the lobby of your house. To plug into a system, in all kinds of weird ways, is very fashionable. Another way is to run cables. You can steal the electricity from the houses which have it - on the right side of the street, and bring in to the houses which don’t on the left side. That has its price too, sometimes a deadly one. Some steal oil from the transformer stations to replace car fuel. To have a car battery in the apartment, that is a real treat. A radio can be plugged into it - and turned on ever hour, for the news. This battery is the source of light, too. Those less capable attach to it stronger bulbs and soon understand that the battery is drained too quickly. As time goes by, we all learned, and here is the advice - take the smallest bulb, like the one from the inside of a car. And carefully watch your lighter. You’ll need it, it, if not for lighting a cigarette, then surely to climb the staircases.

THE “ELEKTROPRIVREDA” BUILDING

Electricity was a rare guest in the city. The citizens made do with car batteries, candles given by humanitarian organizations, home- made oil lamps which required small amounts of edible oil and bits of shoestring, and with a variety of more or less successful inventions. Some people used battery and the so called “SOROS” lamps which required solar energy. Although there was plenty of solar energy the lamps had little capacity and quickly broke down. In the hilly parts of the city people built mini power-generating plants. The “Elektroprivreda” building was on the front line, next to the bridge which borders with the occupied Grbavica district and it was frequently shelled.

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